Note from a year ago:
This blog post has created a bit of a stir! Around 2,000 people have viewed it since yesterday when I posted it. Many people have agreed and been supportive in social media comments, and some have been defensive and critical. I apologize if I offended anyone. That was not my intent. I love you whether or not you watch a football game on the Sabbath. My intention was to support those who feel alone in choosing to avoid the game, and to invite each of us to consider our own hearts and actions, and invite us to follow the prophet even when it's hard. It seemed that people weren't aware that the prophets had spoken on this issue, so I wanted to share the doctrine. That's all. With love, Becky
Sometimes I feel like the only family who doesn't watch the Super Bowl each year.
I'm sure we're not alone, but even if we were, I'm fine with that.
I just read a Facebook post where the Super Bowl was causing family contention, as the wife didn't think watching sports is an appropriate Sabbath activity, but the husband loves watching sports on Sundays. This post is not about how to handle marital contention where spouses disagree on an issue like this. That is a tricky issue and I would recommend praying to know how God would have you deal with that. Only the Lord knows the best way to reconcile doctrinal differences in marriage, and it might be a different approach for different couples.
My point is to invite us to ask ourselves a question. Where are we looking for our standard of behavior - the world or God? Opinion or revelation? Culture, traditions of the fathers, and "what everybody is doing," or true doctrine from God's word?
All of the comments after the Facebook post contained opinion, and most contained justification and moral relativism, "it's right if you think or feel it's right" or "it's right if the ends justify the means" or "It's right if it's family time." Zero comments contained any doctrine. People seemed convinced that there is no right and wrong. It seemed to me that it hadn't occurred to anyone that we should look for and follow what God says about it. It's sad to me that this happens on forums full of LDS people where doctrine and truth should be our standard.
It reminded me of a Sheri Dew talk where she said good women at her workplace were looking to Oprah and other sources for their standard, rather than looking to God's chosen leaders. (If anyone has a link to that talk, please send it to me!) So I commented with some prophetic counsel to the Facebook post on this issue. Here it is, in case you're like me and feel somewhat lonely in wanting to follow the prophet on this.
Here's what I wrote in response:
I don't feel that watching football is an appropriate Sabbath activity. There is prophetic counsel on this. For me, when the prophet speaks I do my best to obey, even if we might be the only family in the ward who have an Un-Super Bowl party on Sunday, where we eat treats and play Sabbath-type board games together while the rest of the families watch TV, including sometimes inappropriate and pornographic ads and half-time performers.
Elder Russell M. Nelson said:
He also said, "Not pursuing your “own pleasure” on the Sabbath requires self-discipline. You may have to deny yourself of something you might like. If you choose to delight yourself in the Lord, you will not permit yourself to treat it as any other day. Routine and recreational activities can be done some other time" ("The Sabbath is a Delight, Ensign, May 2015).
Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The Sabbath of the Lord is becoming the play day of the people. It is a day of golf and football on television, of buying and selling in our stores and markets. Are we moving to mainstream America as some observers believe? In this I fear we are. What a telling thing it is to see the parking lots of the markets filled on Sunday in communities that are predominately LDS. Our strength for the future, our resolution to grow the Church across the world, will be weakened if we violate the will of the Lord in this important matter. He has so very clearly spoken anciently and again in modern revelation. We cannot disregard with impunity that which He has said” (Ensign, Nov. 1997).
Here are some more quotes about the holy Sabbath.
For the Strength of Youth says: "Sunday is not a day for shopping, recreation, or athletic events. Do not seek entertainment or make purchases on this day."
It's interesting to see so many opinions, moral relativism and justifications here, rather than looking for God's counsel and obeying it, even if it's hard. I think it's important to obey the prophet on all things, not just the convenient things. After seeing two prophets say that it's not God's will to watch sports on Sunday, and then saying, "Disobeying God by watching the Super Bowl on the holy Sabbath is right if it's family time" is kind of like saying some of these things:
- "I know stealing is wrong, but if we steal as a family that makes it right."
- "I know shopping on Sunday is wrong, but if it's family time that makes it right."
- "I know drinking alcohol is wrong, but as long as we're drinking it as a family then it's right."
- My husband thought of this one: "It's okay to commit fornication because I'm obeying the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth."
And looking to a bishop to say, "Well, my bishop is doing it so it must be right," is not a good justification. That reminds me of young children justifying their naughty behavior by saying, "But Billy did it too, so it's okay if I do it." My husband is a bishop and we obey the prophets, even if we feel alone.
Elder Scott said, "Strength comes from making no exceptions to your principles" ("Finding Happiness, BYU Devotional, Aug. 19, 1997). Here is President Monson's counsel on doing the right thing even if we have to stand alone.
Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “To you I have only one question: are you going to follow the true and living prophet or not? It really isn’t any more complicated than that” ("When Shall These Things Be,” March 12, 1996, BYU Devotional).
I don't write this to criticize or offend. I write it to encourage others who may feel alone, so they know there are others who obey even on challenging issues like these. I also write to invite others to consider their own hearts and actions. It's easy to obey the prophet when there's no temptation or cultural pressure to disobey. But when everyone else is doing it, it can be really hard! I want to offer support, strength, and encouragement through God's word to help people obey the prophets on the hard things. I am strengthened immensely by learning God's doctrine on an issue (as Elder Packer said that understanding true doctrine changes attitudes and behavior), and by knowing other people are following it, that I'm not alone.
This reminds me of the cafeteria style approach to obedience.
Elder Russell M. Nelsen said, "[There are] people who pick which commandments they will keep and ignore others that they choose to break. I call this the cafeteria approach to obedience. This practice of picking and choosing will not work. It will lead to misery. To prepare to meet God, one keeps all of His commandments. It takes faith to obey them, and keeping His commandments will strengthen that faith" (Ensign, May 2011).
Cafeteria style obedience might look like these examples:
- I won't play football on Sunday. I'll just watch other people play football on Sunday.
- I'll dress modestly...except when it's time for the prom dance. Then it's okay to wear a strapless, tight dress. Or I'll dress modestly by keeping myself covered up, except I'll wear tight jeans, tight leggings, or tight shirts. (Girls, the good young men I talk with, including those in my seminary class, REALLY appreciate when you avoid tight clothes!)
- I'll keep the Lord's standards of dating only after age 16, I'll date only in groups, and do wholesome activities, but I'll have a steady boyfriend or girlfriend before marriageable age.
- I won't kill or commit adultery, but I'll watch other people kill and commit adultery in TV shows and movies. And I'll virtually kill others for hours and hours on a computer game. (Christ said, "or anything like unto it...")
- I won't do drugs, smoke, or drink alcohol, but it's fine if I have an addiction to health-damaging caffeine drinks, including energy drinks.
President James E. Faust said, “Some addictions can control us to the point where they take away our God-given agency. One of Satan’s great tools is to find ways to control us. Consequently, we should abstain from anything that would keep us from fulfilling the Lord’s purposes for us, whereby the blessings of eternity may hang in jeopardy. … Any kind of addiction inflicts a terrible price in pain and suffering, and it can even affect us spiritually” (“The Power to Change,” Ensign, Nov. 2007).
Neal A. Maxwell said, "Even if we decide to leave Babylon, some of us endeavor to keep a second residence there, or we commute there on weekends. ... As Church members, we should be part of that sin-resistant counterculture. ... If, in the end, you have not chosen Jesus Christ it will not matter what you have chosen.” (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book)
I know we are all on a path, and it's not realistic to expect any of us to be perfect in all things right now. The plan is to do our best to learn and align ourselves with God's will, pray for strength and guidance to obey it, and repent when we fall short and then try again. We can ask God to help us change our desires (see Mosiah 5:2) and make us into new creatures. We can set goals and work on becoming more and more aligned with God's will. And we can study God's word on a given topic, remembering that understanding true doctrine changes attitudes and behavior. We can pray for and receive our own spiritual witness that something is the Lord's will for us. We can ask for and receive the empowering, enabling power of Christ's Atonement, the grace part that Elder Bednar taught so beautifully.
Here is what President Harold B. Lee said about it. "Now, if you have made mistakes, make today the beginning of a change of your lives. Turn from the thing that you have been doing that is wrong. The most important of all the commandments of God is that one that you are having the most difficulty keeping today. If it is one of dishonesty, if it is one of unchastity, if it is one of falsifying, not telling the truth, today is the day for you to work on that until you have been able to conquer that weakness. Put that aright and then you start on the next one that is most difficult for you to keep. That’s the way to sanctify yourself by keeping the commandments of God" (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 82).
I'm certainly not perfect, and I'm quite sure I have blind spots in my obedience too. If so, I hope the Lord will help me see them and help me do better. We are all learning and growing line upon line. The good news is, because of Christ's Atonement, each one of us can have a fresh start and start living a higher standard of obedience in any of these areas right now, this very moment. Repentance and change are real, and as Sheri Dew said,
"The happiest people I know are those who repent regularly and obey" ("You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory," BYU Devotional, December 9, 2003).
I want to put in a plug here for people who love their family members who love the Super Bowl (or whatever the issue is) AND also love and want to obey God.
I do not have the answers, but God does. I have been heartened by comments of people who have found alternate ways to maintain a family tradition while still doing their best to obey the Sabbath day commandment. Some have a Super Bowl party on Monday night and invite others over who also avoid the game on Sunday. My seminary teacher colleague loves sports and he wakes up early the next morning to watch the game. My friend attends the party but eats food and chats with the ladies in the kitchen rather than sitting and watching the game. I don't have the answers to this challenge, but God does.
If you have a desire to protect precious relationships with people who have traditions you don't agree with AND you want to obey God's commandments, I invite you to make it a matter of prayer and scripture study. It is a sweet experience to receive your own answers of what God would have you do. It may take time, but you'll be guided, and God will appreciate your sincere desire to follow Him with hard things. Here's one more quote by Neal A. Maxwell: “If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are most difficult for us to do.” (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book).
P.S. Also, did you know the Super Bowl is the biggest prostitution event in America? Deseret News covered that here.